If you’re a sports fan, you’re probably looking forward to this summer. Alongside the standard baseball season, we get a healthy dose of major international competitions…not one, not two, but three. The European Championship for soccer will kick off in France in a little over a week while the Summer Olympics are due to roll into Rio de Janeiro in August.
But before any of that, we’ve got the Copa América Centenario – which is due to start this Friday, June 3. If you’re a soccer fan, the best news of all is that it’s taking place just south of the border, in the US!
What is the Copa América Centenario?
The Copa América is a men’s international soccer tournament held between South American national teams. It is the premier continental competition for the teams like Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. It has been held with variable regularity, but now seems to have generally fallen into a pattern of once every 4 years. While the tournament is organized by CONMEBOL (the football governing body of South America), other (usually North American) national teams are sometimes invited to take part.
However this year’s edition of the tournament is special. While the Copa América was held last year and is due to run again in 2019, the 2016 edition is the 100th anniversary of the inaugural tournament (hence the ‘Centenario’). As such, the organizers decided on a special host and some extra teams to go with it…
Where is the Copa América being held in 2016?
In the United States of America! To mark the occasion, the Copa América will be held outside of South America for the first time. Thanks to a wide selection of stadiums and huge Latin American population, the US made sense as the country to play host. Games will be played in 10 cities across the country – from coast to coast. It is the perfect opportunity for North American’s to watch some of the world’s best teams and biggest stars compete in South America’s biggest tournament.
Who is participating in the Copa América?
All 10 South American members of CONMEBOL (Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol) will be taking part in the tournament including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
In addition, 6 teams from CONCACAF (the governing body for North and Central America, as well as the Caribbean) are also invited. This includes the hosts, the United States, as well as Mexico (both automatic qualifiers). Costa Rica, Jamaica, Haiti, and Panama round out the participants. Unfortunately Canada wasn’t able to make it, but we’re still predicting a great competition!
Teams to Watch
In these international soccer tournaments, any team can make an impression. Sometimes it’s the favorites that perform as expected but other times we get an upset. Costa Rica made it all the way to the quarterfinals in the 2014 World Cup while unfancied Greece won Euros back in 2004. That being said, here are a few teams to watch.
Argentina is one of the pre-tournament favorites, and it’s easy to see why. They have (arguably) the best player in the world in Lionel Messi along with a great supporting cast. This includes strikers Sergio Agüero of Manchester City and Gonzalo Higuaín (who is coming off a career year at Napoli), Ángel Di María of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), and Javier Mascherano who has been a rock for Barcelona in recent years.
However, not all is rosy for La Albiceleste. Messi suffered a recent injury and is rushing to get fit in time for the first game. Despite considerable firepower up front, there are questions in defense. The main sticking point is a recent history of failing right at the brink. Last year, Argentina was defeated by Chile in the final on penalties – just a year after losing in the World Cup final to Germany. They’ll have to put this behind them to win their first Copa América since 1993.
Mention Brazilian soccer to anyone, and it’s likely to conjure images of flashy, free flowing moves and players who like to enjoy themselves on the pitch. While the country is still one of the best in the world (and can count among their ranks some of the world’s best players), Brazil has lost a bit of luster as of late. Memories of an embarrassing 7-1 defeat in the World Cup semifinal to Germany (at home we should add) still haunt the squad as they look to move past it.
While the team will certainly be a force, there are some notable names missing from the Copa América squad. Barcelona star Neymar was forced to choose between playing for Brazil at the Copa América, or this summer’s Olympics (in his home country) by his club due to injury fears – he chose the latter. In addition, key defenders such as Thiago Silva and David Luiz of PSG, as well as Marcelo of Real Madrid, will also miss the tourney. Still Brazil have some strong players including midfielder Willian from Chelsea and Filipe Luís of Atlético Madrid, and will be hoping that this slightly weakened team can outperform the opposition.
Chile are the reigning champions, having defeated Argentina in the final at home just last year. While they may not have the name recognition of Brazil or Argentina, a Chile victory could not be considered a major upset. They have arguably the tournament’s best goalie in Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo, as well as Arturo Vidal of Bayern Munich and Alexis Sánchez of Arsenal running the show. Chile will look to build on their success to prove that they truly belong in the upper echelons of international soccer – and that last year wasn’t just a fluke. Chile opens their tournament with a finals rematch against Argentina that could set the tone for the games to come.
Another South American nation that is hard to quantify, Colombia could really go either way this tournament. They are led by young captain James Rodríguez, who could be the difference maker. After winning the Golden Boot for top scorer in the 2014 World Cup, he earned a big money move to Spanish giants Real Madrid – and is now one of the world’s elite footballers. However, it remains to be seen how the whole unit will work. Injuries and a dramatic dip in form have lost renowned striker Falcao his place on the team while the previously highly rated Jackson Martínez floundered at Atlético Madrid for half a season before moving to China. Still, Colombia is not a team to count out by any means – and could be very dangerous in the latter rounds.
Uruguay is a very dangerous team for a variety of reasons. The original world superpower has been on fine form in recent years, reaching the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup and winning the 2011 Copa América. They are led by Barcelona’s Luis Suárez – one of the best players in the world. Unfortunately, he has developed a reputation for several poorly timed ‘bites’ that have caused him to miss game time through suspension (including last years edition of the tournament). While he has been in the form of his life for the Catalan team this past year (and one without further incidents), an injury in the final game of the season threatens his participation. It could be that he misses the group stage, or even the entire competition.
Luckily, Uruguay is not a one trick pony. Striker Edinson Cavani of PSG might have to shoulder the load as far as scoring goes until Suárez returns – and he is certainly capable. At the back, 30-year-old Diego Godín of Atlético Madrid – considered one of the best centre backs in the world, marshals the defense. With all cylinders firing, Uruguay has a very real shot at the title – though it could be that their hopes rest on the treatment table as of now.
Generally one of the two best teams in North America (probably the best on current form), Mexico has been looking to make a splash beyond this continent for many years now. Unfortunately, they always seem to come up against Argentina or other strong teams (such as the Dutch in the last World Cup) in the knockout rounds. They have a solid squad with the popular striker Javier Hernández leading the line. After falling out of favour at Manchester United, he has rejuvenated his career with a great season at Bayer Leverkusen in Germany. Legendary Mexican player Rafael Márquez is still in the team despite his age and could be a rallying factor.
When Mexico plays in the United States, they can always count on a massive following – even against the host. This ‘home-crowd’ advantage will be sure to create an intimidating atmosphere for any opponent as Mexico looks to go far.
Going into the 2014 World Cup, no one expected much of Costa Rica. They were in a group with the heavily fancied Italy, England, and Uruguay. Surprisingly, Costa Rica topped the group with 2 wins and a draw, making it all the way to the quarterfinals before a heartbreaking loss to the Dutch on penalties. Is it possible that the country could pull of a similar run here? Well, it’s definitely not outside the realm of possibility. The promising Joel Campbell of Arsenal will certainly be counted on to provide some defining moments. Unfortunately for Costa Rica, their star keeper (Keylor Navas of Real Madrid) will miss the Copa América through injury. It remains to be seen what Costa Rica can produce in the coming weeks.
The host country has been looking to make a splash in the international soccer world for some time. Since qualifying for the World Cup in 1990 and hosting 4 years later, soccer has always been ‘the next big thing’ in America. Some heroic tournament performances (including a quarterfinal berth in 2002 and good runs in both 2010 and 2014) and famous wins (such as against Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup) have galvanized enthusiasm for the national team. But can the current squad capture the hearts and minds of the American people once again and show that the ‘Yanks’ finally belong in the elite of the soccer world?
Well, it won’t be easy. The United States has produced some fine players over the years (such as Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Michael Bradley), though no one that can rightly be considered world class. With Donovan retired, Dempsey aging, and Michael Bradley having traded the Italian league for the MLS (though both he and Dempsey remain two of the team’s most important players), coach Jürgen Klinsmann has been trying to find a winning team. German connections have resulted in some strong players switching nationalities (thanks to an American serviceman parent), such as Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, and Jermaine Jones (though the latter is now 34 years old). Meanwhile, young defender DeAndre Yedlin (who spent the year with Sunderland in the Premier League) will have a lot to prove, while hugely promising youngster Christian Pulisic of Borussia Dortmund could be the X-factor.
Recent poor form that saw the US nearly crash out of World Cup qualifying before it really began and a tough year for both the historically consistent keepers, Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, are major warning signs. The hosts also have a tough group to get out of, facing Colombia, Costa Rica, and the dangerous Paraguay. However, a tournament like this offers a chance to turn things around – and the US has faced worse odds before. Playing at home, you never know. It could be a fairy tale ending for the stars and stripes.
Stadium and Match Guide
Now that you’ve decided what teams you want to go see, you have to figure out where to go! We’ll list each of the scheduled matches by stadium and location, so you can pick what’s best for you!
Foxborough, MA: Gillette Stadium
Located outside of Boston, the home of the New England Patriots plays host to 3 matches, including a potentially mouthwatering quarterfinal that could (maybe) feature Barcelona teammates Messi and Suarez squaring off.
June 10 (7pm): Chile vs Bolivia
June 12 (8:30pm): Brazil vs Peru
East Rutherford, NJ: MetLife Stadium
This new stadium that services that New York City area is home to only one group stage match, but has the honor of hosting the tournament final.
June 12 (6:30pm): Ecuador vs Haiti
June 17 (8pm): Quarterfinal – Winner Group B vs Runner-up Group A
Philadelphia, PA: Lincoln Financial Field
Known more commonly as the home of the Philadelphia Eagles, the stadium features some interesting group stage games – including the hosts and a couple South American powers.
June 9 (7:30pm): Uruguay vs Venezuela
June 11 (7pm): USA vs Paraguay
Chicago, IL: Soldier Field
This writer’s favourite American big city sees both the hosts and the ever popular Argentines pay a visit – as well as a prestigious semi final match.
June 5 (5pm): Jamaica vs Venezuela
June 7 (8pm): USA vs Costa Rica
June 10 (9:30pm): Argentina vs Panama
Orlando, FL: Camping World Stadium
One of the more recent cities to gain an MLS franchise will see 3 intriguing group stage games played there.
June 4 (5pm): Costa Rica vs Paraguay
June 6 (7pm): Panama vs Bolivia
Houston, TX: NRG Stadium
Texas hosts 3 games (including one with Mexico) as well as the first semifinal.
June 11 (9pm): Colombia vs Costa Rica
June 13 (8pm): Mexico vs Venezuela
Glendale, AZ: University of Phoenix Stadium
This city just outside of Phoenix will see Mexico’s hugely important first game as well as the one no one wants to play in – the third place match.
June 5 (8pm): Mexico vs Uruguay
June 8 (10pm): Ecuador vs Peru
Pasadena, CA: Rose Bowl
The site of the 1994 World Cup Final may not have the big one this time around (or any knockout games for that matter), but there are still some interesting matchups.
June 4 (10pm): Brazil vs Ecuador
June 7 (10:30pm): Colombia vs Paraguay
Santa Clara, CA: Levi’s Stadium
The home of the San Francisco 49ers has arguably the strongest slate of group stage matches and a quarterfinal to boot.
June 3 (9:30pm): USA vs Colombia
June 6 (10pm): Argentina vs Chile
June 13 (10pm): Uruguay vs Jamaica
Seattle, WA: CenturyLink Field
Seattle gets to welcome the illustrious Argentines and host a quarterfinal of their own.
June 4 (7:30pm): Haiti vs Peru
June 14 (10pm): Argentina vs Bolivia
June 16 (9:30pm): Quarterfinal – Winner Group A vs Runner-up Group B
*Click HERE for a more in-depth schedule and further information – including the different groups
Where do I get tickets?
While many tickets have already been sold, you can still purchase seats for some of the games. Check out the official retailer through Ticketmaster as well as third party resellers such as StubHub.
Enjoy the Games!
Now that you’ve learned a bit about this illustrious competition and decided what games you want to see, you’ve (hopefully) started planning a last minute road trip across the border. Whether you’re seeing the games in person, watching at home, or still deciding whether to check out what all the fuss is about – we hope you have a great time! See you there!
Learn more about the Copa América Centenario at the official website HERE.
Plan your ultimate Copa América getaway with our comprehensive US Travel Guide in 4 parts! You can also check out our Currency Spotlight for more on the US dollar. Once you’ve done that, we’ll be happy to help you get some of your own online at FXtoGO or at your nearest branch.
If you’re interested in reading a bit more about the beautiful game, why not see what we picked as our 11 most iconic soccer stadiums around the world!
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